Music

Bob Dylan

SEC Armadillo, Glasgow

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Damien Love

five stars

WHEN Bob Dylan sings That Old Black Magic, you have to wonder. This isn’t Rod Stewart sashaying past The Great American Songbook Museum foyer. Dylan takes the Cadillac into the graveyard by moonlight, digs down and communes with ghosts, nodding over to the Chess Records plot that he’ll get back to them soon. The night before he arrived, The Armadillo caught fire. Coincidence or hoodoo ritual?

Bare stage bathed by warm 1940s-Hollywood spots, tonight’s magic is old, noir and golden. Dylan mixes up his own alchemical Americana Songbook, setting his compositions (five from the mythic 1960s, Tangled Up In Blue representing the 1970s, an emphatic 8 from the 2000s) resonating alongside five of the standards he’s been recording recently, including a live debut for This Nearly Was Mine from this year’s Triplicate; a Melancholy Mood like a spindly cartoon; a breath-taking Autumn Leaves.

Usually ensconced stage right at piano, sometimes wandering centre to strike curious rock poses with random mic stands, sometimes removing his hat to unveil that iconic halo of hair, Dylan, in fine throat, displays three voices: the high 1966 whip for Highway 61 Revisited; the worn leather glove growl for Love Sick; something softer, closer for the covers. His band makes this music molten – special mention for guitarist Charlie Sexton, ranging through rock to Western Swing, into hot club jazz. They almost take off during Duquesne Whistle, Dylan's singing at its most playful. But the highlight is a beguiling haunted-toytown arrangement of Desolation Row. Similarly, Blowin’ In The Wind has a lilting, oddly optimistic new soft-shoe shape, all the better to cushion the blow when the full weight of this performer’s history hits you. He ends on Ballad Of A Thin Man. Something is still happening. Magic.